~Billy Collins from “Morning”
~Billy Collins from “Morning”
Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children.
~Wendell Berry from Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food
and I may I add to Wendell’s truths:
Farmers love what they do even when a *certain* horse manages to find a way for the second time in his life to tear his lower lip playing with a simple water bucket in a simple stall, then gets it repaired by a gracious vet on Mother’s Day, and then finds a way five days later while out innocently eating grass in the pasture to rip open all his stitches again which will require a far more complicated plastic surgery type repair in ten days after plenty of antibiotics and prayer.
We love our horses, oh yes we farmers do, even the accident-prone, self-injuring ones. We love our vet even more.
And the vets do love their farmers who need them.
(no, sorry, no graphic pictures will be posted of a very gruesome lip wound — I need a little serenity today)
“When the April wind wakes the call for the soil,
I hold the plough as my only hold upon the earth,
and, as I follow through the fresh and fragrant furrow,
I am planted with every foot-step,
growing, budding, blooming into a spirit of spring.”
- Dallas Lore Sharp, 1870-1929
To watch the soil turn over in the spring, whether by horse power with mane and tail or horse power with tires and engine, is to know my own inner soil needs turning upside down as well. A grip on the handles of the plow connects the dirt and the soul.
The fresh earth ploughed, its face once hidden, surfaces, teeming with life. There is the glisten of moist dirt, the wiggle of worms slithering quickly back into the depths, the roots of the old giving way to the nurture of new planting.
The spirit buds and blossoms once the soil is turned and smoothed into its new position, ready for seeds that will be fed from the heavens. As the worm forgives the plow, so we are forgiven for turning things upside down. We must start over to bloom. We are ready to get our hands and feet dirty in order to be fruitful.
How much better it is
to carry wood to the fire
than to moan about your life.
How much better
to throw the garbage
onto the compost, or to pin the clean
sheet on the line,
With a gray-brown wooden clothes pin.
~Jane Kenyon “The Clothespin”
I get easily overwhelmed with everything that needs to get done on the farm in addition to all the usual household tasks, especially on a weekend–grass to mow, flower beds to weed, garden to plant, fences to fix, manure to haul, animals to brush out — the list is endless and there are never enough hours in the day. I moan and whine about it.
Or I can set to work, tackling one thing at a time. A simple task is accomplished, and then another, like hanging clothes on the line: this one is done, and now this one, pinned and hanging to freshen, renewed, in the spring breezes.
At the end of the day (or the end of the weekend), I pull them down, bury my face in them and breathe deeply, knowing how much better I am than before I began.
So much better.
Awake! Awake! for the earliest gleam
Of golden sunlight shines
On the rippling waves, that brightly flow
Beneath the flowering vines.
Awake! Awake! for the low, sweet chant
Of the wild-birds’ morning hymn
Comes floating by on the fragrant air,
Through the forest cool and dim;
Then spread each wing,
And work, and sing,
Through the long, bright sunny hours;
O’er the pleasant earth
We journey forth,
For a day among the flowers.
~Louisa May Alcott Lily-Bell and Thistledown Song I
It was such a spring day as breathes into a man an ineffable yearning, a painful sweetness, a longing that makes him stand motionless, looking at the leaves or grass, and fling out his arms to embrace he knows not what.
Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and green world all together,
Star-eyed strawberry breasted
Throstle above Her nested
Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within,
And bird and blossom swell
In sod or sheath or shell.”
- Gerard Manley Hopkins, The May Magnificat
“A delicate fabric of bird song
Floats in the air,
The smell of wet wild earth
Oh I must pass nothing by
Without loving it much,
The raindrop try with my lips,
The grass with my touch;
For how can I be sure
I shall see again
The world on the first of May
Shining after the rain?”
- Sara Teasdale, May Day
“Every spring is the only spring – a perpetual astonishment.”
- Ellis Peters
“Some will tell you crocuses are heralds true of spring
Others say that tulips showing buds are just the thing
Point to peonies, say when magnolia blossoms show
I look forward to the sight of other flowers though
Cultivate your roses, grow your orchids in the dark
Plant your posies row on row and stink up the whole park
The flower that’s my favourite kind is found throughout the land
A wilting, yellow dandelion, clutched in a grubby hand.”
- Larry Tilander, Springtime of My Soul
“Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.”
- Robert Frost, A Prayer in Spring
“Poetry is the silence and speech between a wet struggling root of a flower and a sunlit blossom of that flower.”
- Carl Sandburg
“With the coming of spring, I am calm again. “
- Gustav Mahler
The wealthy man is not he who has money, but he who has the means to live in the luxurious state of early spring.
“This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.
I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.”
- D. H. Lawrence, The Enkindled Spring
“The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud come over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.”
- Robert Frost
“Hark, I hear a robin calling!
List, the wind is from the south!
And the orchard-bloom is falling
Sweet as kisses on the mouth.
Come and let us seek together
Springtime lore of daffodils,
Giving to the golden weather
Greeting on the sun-warm hills.”
- Lucy Maud Montgomery, Spring Song
“If you’ve never been thrilled to the very edges of your soul by a flower in spring bloom, maybe your soul has never been in bloom.”
- Audra Foveo
“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”
- Mark Twain
“Every year, back comes Spring, with nasty little birds yapping their fool heads off and the ground all mucked up with plants.”
- Dorothy Parker
For Jim and Breanna on their wedding day
Today is the day the pasture gate opens
after a long winter; you are let out on grass
to a world vast and green and lush
beyond your wildest imaginings.
You run leaping and bounding,
hair flying in the wind, heels kicked up
in the freedom to form together
a binding trust of covenant love.
You share with us your rich feast today,
as grace grows like grass
that stretches to eternity yet bound safely
within the fence rows of your vows.
When rains come, as hard times always do,
and this spring day feels far removed,
when covered in the mud or frost or drought of life,
know your promises were made to withstand any storm.
Even though leaning and breaking, as fences tend to do,
they remind you to whom you belong and where home is,
anchoring you if you lose your way,
pointing you back to the gate you once entered.
Once there you will remember the gift of today:
a community of faith and our God blessed
this opened gate, these fences, and most of all your love
as you feast with joy on the richness of His spring pasture.
with prayers for the family of a ten year old Whidbey Island girl who died this week while out in the field with her beloved horses –of natural causes and no signs of trauma
…riding gave her more than a body. It released a gay and hardy soul. She was the happiest thing in the world. And she was happy because she was enlarging her horizon.
…A rift in the clouds in a gray day threw a shaft of sunlight upon her coffin as her nervous, energetic little body sank to its last sleep. But the soul of her, the glowing, gorgeous, fervent soul of her, surely was flaming in eager joy upon some other dawn.
~William Allen White from his famous eulogy for his daughter “Mary White” in 1921 written four days after she died in a riding accident
This is a week of very public sorrow for so many, though, not unlike any week, there are those who grieve in their own private agony of loss.
Any child dying is too young too soon. It defies our limited ability to understand or explain.
May we, as did William White over 90 years ago, search for the eloquence in telling the story of that one young life — how her soul lit the world for a brief shining moment and now continues to flame beyond our reach.
It did seem odd this morning during my barn chores that our six year old Haflinger gelding stood facing the back wall as I opened his stall door to give him his hay. For a moment I wondered if there was a problem with his appetite as he usually would dive right into his hay as soon as I threw it to him. A closer look told me the problem was with his hind end, not his front end: his heavy white tail was wrapped snugly around a J hook hanging on the stall wall meant to hold his water bucket. Instead now it held him — and wasn’t letting go. He had apparently been itching his butt back and forth, round and round on the handy hook and managed to wrap his tail into such tight knots on the hook that he was literally tethered to the wall. He was very calm about the whole thing only maybe just a little embarrassed.
He turned his head to look at me, pitiful. How long he’d been standing there like that through the night was anyone’s guess. I bet he no longer was itchy.
I started to work at untying the tail knots to free him and found them wound so tight that loosening them required significant cooperation from my 1200 pound buddy. Unfortunately, any time I managed to almost unloop a knot over the hook end, he would pull forward, snugging it even tighter. Out of desperation I pulled out the scissors I keep in my barnjacket pocket. I cut one knot hoping that would be sufficient. Then I cut through another knot. Still not enough. I cut a third big knot and thank God Almighty, he was free at last. He sauntered over to his hay now with a chunk of his tail in my hand and a big gap in what was still left hanging on him. It may take a year to grow that missing hair back out. But hey, it is only hair and at least someone kind and caring came along with a set of shears to release him painlessly from his captivity. We aren’t all so lucky.
I know what it is like to get tangled up in things I should probably give wide berth. I have a tendency, like my young horse, to butt in where I best not be and then become so bound I can’t get loose again. It can take forever to free myself, sometimes painfully leaving parts of my hide behind.
So when I inevitably get tied up in knots again, I hope someone will come along to save me. Better yet, I hope someone might warn me away from the things that hook me before I foolishly back right into them. I’ve got to loosen up and quit pulling the knots tighter.
It’s best to always have a detangler handy. You never know when you might need one.
…anything can be written about. Not because nothing is sacred, but because everything is.
Too much on the internet is “anything goes” because nothing is considered too sacred to be dissected, illustrated, exploited and promoted in as public a way as possible. Most of it is so cringe-worthy that it feels very risky to click on any unfamiliar link as it may take the viewer into such a dark corner of the web that it feels impossible to escape. Once an image is seen, it is difficult to erase from the mind’s eye.
So my little corner of the web is meant to be in the light, instead of a portal into dark.
Over the years I’ve written about many things that are personal, whether it is mistakes I’ve made, overblown worries, my parents’ marriage, health care controversies, forgiveness, and surprisingly, the page that gets the most visits on my blog: my horse’s bodily functions.
Even horse poop can be seen as sacred…I guess. At least someone must think so.
Some things are just too sacred to be written down, and because I hold them close in my heart, they will stay that way.